See more photos of Groupama on page 3...
The latest retirement in the Route du Rhum has been Bertrand de Broc on board Banque Covefi. This has not been through technical failure but because de Broc, a seasoned ocean racer who has taken part in the Vendee Globe, says he is too frightened to carry on.
Last night while tacking his 60ft trimaran down the channel, de Broc made out something ahead in the darkness, and luffed up to avoid it. Upon hearing later about Franck Cammas' capsize he realised that it had been Groupama and realised how fortunate he had been to avoid the same fate as Jean le Cam's Bonduelle. The incident clearly unnerved him and at 0900 this morning he made the brave call to withdraw not only from the race, but from solo ocean racing.
“I was frightened during the night and I have taken the decision to stop racing solo in general," commented the skipper, who is best known for having to perform surgery to his own tongue during the Vendee Globe). "You have to be 200 percent out there and I realised that I had some doubts and could not get rid of them. Í was perturbed. You cannot continue with doubts as it will risk both me and the boat. Solo racing is finished for me.”
Currently Thomas Coville on board Sodebo is leading the 60ft trimarans with his Locmariquer neighbour Francis Joyon lying second aboard Eure et Loire. Coville is obviously pushing hard and this may possibly result in gear failure on board on what is the latest of the new generation of tris to be launched. Joyon, in contrast, is sailing one of the oldest trimarans but benefits from having a tried, tested and above all simple boats with which he is very familiar. The boat is eight years old but unexpectedly won the Europe 1 New Man STAR in 2000.
During the night Michel Desjoyeaux aboard Geant dived into a little bay at the entrance of Brest harbour where his technical team came on board with sailmaker Hugues Destremau of Cudenec sailmakers to replace some battens. This took less than two hours during which the team also solved a small problem with the electronics. Desjoyeaux set off again at 0430 into a westerly wind.
Desjoyeaux commented on his pitstop: "This technical stop is understandable since the boat and I have not sailed much. Now I am setting out again with 80 miles behind of the leader, but my first objective was to be at the start in St Malo, I've done that, now my second objective remains to reach the other side. The capsize of Franck Cammas proves that this kind of incident happens even to the most experienced sailor and will encourage the fleet to redouble their vigilance "
Jean le Cam on Bonduelle has made port following his collision with the capsized Groupama. Upon inspection they found a piece of Groupama's hull inside theirs!
At the time of the collision he had been sailing at around 15 knots on starboard tack. He was working in the cockpit, suddenly heard a "shock". He looked ahead, saw nothing ahead, but had a very strange feeling. Then by the time it was too late the float of the upturned Groupama became intangled with Bonduelle. "It was a real shock - I don't know if you can imagine the situation - I cannot imagine a more serious catostrophy," he commented during this morning's radio interviews. He thinks Groupama may have capsized 15 minutes earlier than originally reported.
At lunchtime today Franck Cammas was still on the upturned hull of Groupama in his survival suit as she is being towed slowly into port. Unfortunately Cammas has no means of communication. The boat was still 8 miles north of Roscoff.
In the monohull fleet the boats are currently heading across the Bay of Biscay, making reasonable progress in northwesterly conditions. Over the next 48 hours the boats will be experienced fairly unusual conditions as they cross a succession of three cold fronts. Over the course of today the wind will back to the south west and for the skippers the tactical question will be at what stage to tack back to the north west. With the passing of the next cold front the wind will again shift back to the north west and again the fleet will tack back on to starboard. The positioning of the boats relative to these fronts and the point at which the boats tack will be critical.
It is interesting to note that at present the leaders Sill, Virbac and Kingfisher are all to the west while Miranda Merron on UUDS who is reasonably canny with the weather, following her stint at the chart table on Amer Sports Too in the Volvo, is the furthest southeast back up to eighth place.
At present the weather looks particularly bad for Thursday when the competitors, regardless of where they are in the fleet, will experience winds of 60-70 knots. However the Azores high is at present re-establishing itself which will provide good reason for the competitors to dive south in a fews days time.
In class 2, Nick Moloney sailing the Open 50 Ashfield Healthcare has just been overtaken by Yannick Bestaven on board Republique Dominican. This is somewhat galling as Moloney effectively had a head start when at the start the French boat suffered a split mainsail. However Bestaven's newer Berret-Racoupeau design is far better upwind and this will hurt Moloney over the next few days.
British class 3 skipper, Conrad Humphreys, racing the Open 40 Hellomoto has rejoined the Route du Rhum.
During Saturday's start for the monohulls Humphreys' boat collided with the French Open 50 Défi Vendéen skippered by Jean-François Durand. Durand had got caught up with a race mark and Humphreys didn't have time to take avoiding action which resulted in three areas of damage on the starboard side of his hull. Because of these Conrad was forced put into Roscoff yesterday for repairs.
Having fixed the holes, Hellomoto was towed out from Roscoff this morning at 0800GMT by RIB. Conrad is in good spirits after a decent night's sleep in Roscoff and says that he's sailing fast and, although he has the miles to make up.
Got to page two to see the latest positions.